Opening the Door.

“Yes, I am the door.  Those who come in through me will be saved.”  John 10:9.

After I acknowledged God – and started to study His Word – I resisted finding a church home.  The usual culprits were at play: pride, ego and (of course) fear.

I told myself I did not need to hang out with other Christians.  I had my “one on one” relationship with God and that sufficed.   I didn’t want other people to bear witness to my crazy.  Plus, I have an inherent distrust for people in power and don’t like being told what to do.  It’s a control thing.

Good thing for me God was ready to dole out a humility smack down to keep me on track.  My experience has been – that the minute I think “I know best” – God brings me down to earth and compels me to acknowledge that He is all powerful and I am – in the most loving way possible – an idiot.

DSC_2680fLet’s fast forward six years from when God came to me at my mother’s home and I purchased the pink Bible (Background Reading: Finding Faith).

I successfully passed my bar exam (whoo hoo!); was married to my best friend (Jeff); and had two beautiful girls.  We owned a sweet little farm house and I was partner in a law firm.  Life looked good.

In spite of my outward success – I wasn’t doing much better than I had been before I failed my bar exam.  I was plagued by anxiety and depression.  I despised my career and didn’t know how to get out of it.  We were remodeling our home and the disruption to our lives was great.  Jeff and I fought a lot.  We each struggled with demons.

On the outside – we looked perfect.  But on the inside?  We were a mess.

After our second daughter was born – things in our marriage spiraled downward.  Our fighting was volcanic and we even tried a period of separation.  Nothing worked.

imagesOne winter day, Jeff and I had a blowout.  I left home with our daughters to drive around and cool down.  I was devastated.  I thought my marriage was ending and that life had – yet again – become hopeless.  As the snow started to fall – I pulled into the parking lot of a large church I had driven past hundreds of times before.  I put the car in park as my girls slept in their car seats.

Every day on my way to and from the office, I drove past this church (where I was now parked).  I passed a lot of churches on my way to work- but this particular church always generated “feelings” in me.  It irritated me.  I would roll my eyes and mutter things like “Why do people go there?”

There was no rhyme or reason for it.  I was just being ornery.  The more fired up I became – the more I had to admit to myself that I was deeply curious about the church that annoyed me so much.  

I know better now.  The Spirit was working in me.  He was calling me to this church.  As is my pattern, I chose to argue with God instead of letting Him guide me.

Damn law degree. Damn willful nature.  Damn Irish stubbornness.

2017-11-18 11.51.28However, on this snowy day, something about the simple cross at the peak of the church called to me.  I didn’t feel annoyed at all.  I didn’t mutter anything under my breath.  I just wanted to be near it – in the presence of that cross.

So I parked in the parking lot by the main entrance of the church and cried big wet tears – willing someone to come out to my car and rescue me.  However, the parking lot was empty and no one was there.  The building was pitch black.

After awhile, I stopped crying and let the sound of silence and my daughters’ gentle breathing fill the car.  I closed my eyes and started to pray.  Soon, I felt a warmth spread over my body – comforting me – like a hug.

And then, I heard God’s voice.

“Go in.”

I looked at the church.  It was closed.  I raised my eyebrows.

Really?” came my sarcastic reply.

“Go in.”

“It’s CLOSED!” I said loudly – looking upward and gesturing with both hands.

“Go in.”

Now, when God speaks to me – it isn’t like a scene from a movie. There are no ominous voices or burning bushes.  I feel His voice in my head and heart.  Sometimes I am guilty of squashing that voice.  But on this day – I chose to listen. I rolled my eyes and sighed – dramatically – but I listened.

I was already the crazy lady crying in the church parking lot.  What did it matter at this point?

My daughters woke up.  I drove over to an entrance at the back of the church campus marked “Kids World.”  I had seen a jungle gym structure from the road and knew there was play equipment for children inside.  I took a chance – exited the car – and tested the back door.

Open!

“Okay – you’re right!” – I said loudly again, looking up at the sky and laughing.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives.  Everyone who seeks finds.  And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10.

IMG_7191I parked the car and brought the girls inside as the snow continued to fall.  They played and giggled.  I found myself giggling too.  Their joy became my joy and a great happiness filled my heart.  My pain went away and I felt nothing but peace.

After the girls had their fill on the play equipment – we walked around the church to check things out.  There was no one there except for us.  I kept thinking “how nice” this church was and “how comfortable” I felt there.  The more my girls explored and bounced around – the more convicted I became that I needed to attend a service.

I retuned home that evening – calm.  I apologized to Jeff.  Jeff apologized to me.  We forgave each other.  It was like the bubble of peace that had surrounded me at church had followed me to our broken home and filled that with peace as well.

Later that week, I asked my husband if he’d watch the girls so I could go back to the church to hear a sermon.  He agreed and I went to Saturday night service alone.

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The first time I heard the pastor speak, I was taken aback.  I had never been taught the Bible before.  I mean, to read the Bible is one thing – but to be taught the Bible – this was completely foreign to me!  I left feeling energized and hungry to dive deeper into His Word and purpose for my life.

I loved the feeling of being surrounded by so many people in worship.  Even though I knew no one there – and did not speak to anyone – I felt supported by everyone in attendance.  Where I was weak, I could feel the strength of the people in that room and the power of the God we worshiped.  He was there.  The Son was there.  The Spirit was there.  Present – with each of us eager to receive grace and, of course, love.

I was hooked.

After that first service, I invited my husband to join me at church and – initially – he declined.  I didn’t push – but asked if I could take our girls to a service.  He agreed and the three of us started to attend every weekend.

Lawyers are first taught the law and then learn how to apply it.  There is a huge difference between reading the law and understanding how its application impacts real life.  Up to this point, I had been reading God’s Word – but now – I was actually learning how to apply it.  As we flushed out the definitions of grace, forgiveness, accountability and judgment – I started to see the world with new eyes.  I became “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” James 1:19.

Unknown-1Every Sunday I went.  Even though I sat alone, I went.  While I longed for Jeff to hold my small hand in his larger one during the sermon – I did not let my pain stop me from attending.  I knew God was at work.  I sat in a crowd of hundreds of people – but I often thought the pastor was speaking only to me – calling me out in a firm yet loving manner.  I often teared up in church.

I went because the discomfort I felt was a good discomfort – like the type you get after an exercise class.  My spiritual muscles were getting a workout.  Every day I read His Word – and expanded upon that reading on Sundays – I found myself growing stronger.  I started to see things differently.  As the world became increasingly new, I was compelled to adjust my lens.  (Background Reading: Looking Through a Different Lens).

Soon, Jeff noticed a difference in me.  I became patient – kind – less irritable.  Yet again I was being transformed into the woman, mother and wife God wanted me to be.  I could not control Jeff.  I could, however, control myself.  Through Christ’s example, I could be the light in the dark.  And through that light – perhaps my marriage could be saved and my husband could be drawn to Jesus too.

“Your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16.  

After months of attending service alone, praying for my husband to be with me, on a random Sunday, Jeff offered to go to church with me and our girls.  I was more excited than a kid on Christmas morning!  Raised Catholic, Jeff was taken aback by the modern praise music and the pastor’s casual jeans and sneakers.  However, he held my hand and listened.

After attending the first service, Jeff did not come back for several weeks. I invited him (lovingly) to join us every Sunday – but I did not press.  Jesus could not be a point of contention between us.  Plus, I had confidence that God was on my team.

I continued to pray that Jeff would attend church with me and our girls.  I continued to hope that Christ would save our marriage.  I continued to let God work on me through his Word and the pastor’s teaching and let that light shine for Jeff to see.

IMG_7353So, here’s the cool part about faith in Jesus Christ: if you believe – it is nearly impossible for those closest to you to not start to believe too.  His teachings are infectious.  His way?  Patient, loving and kind.  It is not always your words about Him that will bring others to His light – but the way you conduct yourself will attract many.  Including stubborn Italian husbands.

“…[C]lothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.  And always be thankful.”  Colossians 3:13 – 15

Eventually, Jeff started to come to church with us every Sunday.  Not because I made him – but because he wanted to.  Over time, we formed relationships with other people within our church community who became powerful influencers for us in our marriage and faith.  We started to put down roots.  The deeper those roots grew – the stronger our marriage and faith became.

The transformation that took place in both our lives is the definition of a miracle.

There is a reason why Jesus charged Peter as the rock upon which he will build churches.   To be clear, I am no Biblical scholar.  However, Jesus’ request that Peter “build” His church seems obvious to me.

You can believe.  You can follow.  You can read the Word.  But the temptation of this world is great.  By surrounding ourselves with a community of Christian fellowship – we strengthen (fortify if you will) as one against the power and persuasion of the dark one. We were not designed to do this alone.  We were meant to walk in faith with other believers.  Jesus Christ is our Savior.  We are each other’s security in this world.

For me? Finding my church home started by trying to open a door that (for all intensive purposes) should have been locked to me.  But it was’t.  In fact, the only thing keeping me out of that building had been my own willful pig-headedness (the root cause of most of my short comings).

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Let me challenge you.

For those in the faith – who do not have a church home – why not?  I bet the reasons you identify will shed light on challenges within your own life you need to take accountability for.  Just sayin’.

For those who are seeking – what are you afraid of?  I don’t mean to sound trite but it’s a church for crying out loud.  No one is going to bite you.  If I can do it – you can do it!

For those who say – “I already have a church” (but never attend said church) – then that is a different matter altogether.  Here’s something to consider.  If you are a member of a church; but don’t attend that church; maybe that church isn’t feeding you the way it should?  There is a reason why there are so many different denominations of Christianity.  We all respond to His Word in different ways.

I happen to respond to no-nonsense preaching; rock music; stadium seating and a latte.  But that’s just me.

So, how do you find a church community that fits you?  After all, not everyone will be blessed with a commute that takes them by their eventual church followed by a parking lot meltdown and an open door (which I will always attribute to divine intervention!).

Take some time and visit churches in your area.  Attend a service and journal about how the service made you feel and what you took away from it.  Did you find your mind drifting – or did it keep your attention?  Did the message resonate with you?  Did you feel that your presence during the sermon helped you on your spiritual journey?  Did you, well, “get into it?”

UnknownThrow your excuses and limitations out the window.  Trust me, in this department, you do not know best (and this is coming from someone who thinks she knows everything).  Open up your mind and heart.  What do you stand to benefit from putting up walls?  If you are not in a fulfilling Christian community – strongly consider who is keeping you from your Father’s house and why.  

Let me add that worship should never feel like a chore or obligation.  It is the one day a week we get to praise God with other believers!  Every Sunday, I can’t wait to get to church and, after, I don’t want to leave!  Jeff and the kids frequently need to drag me out of there!

Don’t stop seeking until you find a church that helps you deepen your faith.  Deepening your faith will mean a period of discomfort (which is a sure tell sign of growth) – but run – seriously run – from anything that makes you feel bad about yourself.  Self-deprecation is not part of the doctrine.  Accountability is – but self loathing, guilt and shame?  No.

The point is this: don’t sell yourself short by not finding a community of believers that will walk with you on your journey.  You cannot do this by yourself.  Take a chance – and open a door.  Who knows what you’ll discover on the other side.

Have Comments or Questions about my Faith Story?  Let’s Connect!

 


 

 

Transformed by the Word.

Recently, my church asked me to give testimony about my transformation through Christ.  My relationship with Jesus is just that – a relationship – and it is ongoing.  In this short video – you get to hear from me first hand how God got my attention – and how my life was never the same after.

Have Questions about my Faith Story? Let’s Connect!

I did not become a Christ Follower overnight.  My relationship with Jesus started when I was at the lowest point of my young adult life.  It took nearly a decade before I would be baptized.  No matter where you are in your faith journey – please connect with me below.  If I can be a resource to you – I will certainly try.  If you need prayer, I will gladly pray for you.  Walk boldly toward Jesus!  He is waiting with loving and open arms.

Leaving Litigation: A Leap of Faith

“I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore.”

I stood in the doorway of our family room.  My husband was eating chips.  I had just put our children to bed.

“Ha, ha,” Jeff responded sarcastically.  He was only halfway paying attention to me.  The chip bag crinkled.  The laugh track from the television carried through the room.

I stood silently and then leaned against the door frame.

“Babe,” my voice broke.  He turned his eyes to me.  I had his attention now.

“I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore.”

I do not remember every day of my life but some days strike me with such clarity that I can re-create them – second by second – from recall.  The day I knew that I would no longer practice law is one of those memories.


It was early fall.  I was partner in a personal injury law firm.  I sat in my large office.  I stared at the mahogany furniture.  I looked blankly at my computer.  I could not muster the strength to open my email.  I knew what awaited me inside.  Demands.  Complaints.  Arguments.  Personal attacks.  More demands.  More complaints.  More arguments.

Email wasn’t just on my computer.  It was on my phone.  It was on my tablet.  It was on the watch on my wrist.  It was everywhere.  Like a poison.

I had spent the better part of the day in a deposition of an infectious disease specialist at a hospital.  I sat across from the doctor and asked him questions.  I attacked his credibility.  I attacked his credentials.  I attacked his treatment of my client.  I shoved medical records in his face.  The disdain and sarcasm in my voice was palpable.  The hate in his eyes for me – the lawyer – was undeniable.

pexels-photo-613508.jpegI drove back to the office in the rain for two and a half hours.  By the time I sat at my desk – all I could think of was how long it would be until I could have a drink.  I craved the anti-anxiety medication on my bathroom counter.  Feeling like I was going to have a heart attack was a daily occurrence.  My left eye twitched uncontrollably.  “Stress,” my primary care physician said.

I shut the laptop and walked to the middle of my office and closed the door.  I looked at the wall of awards: “Top 40 Trial Attorney under 40”; “Outstanding New Lawyer”; “Top 2.5% of Attorneys in Illinois”.  My name was even listed in a major Chicago publication as one of the “it” lawyers to watch.  I laughed bitterly.  The irony of my situation was not lost on me.

On paper, I was a “success.”  I had a great career.  I was married to a wonderful man and we had three beautiful children together.  I was active in our community – strived to be perfectly dressed – and politically appropriate wherever I went.  I attended professional events where people would tell me how “happy” I was and complimented my legal acumen and business savvy.

It was a lie.  The whole thing was a lie.

I smiled.  I shook hands.  I did trials and won people lots of money.  I argued with insurance companies and boasted of my success.  But at home?  I was wretched.



I drank and took medicine to sleep at night.  My dreams were nightmares.  Sometimes it took me hours to fall asleep – so I worked instead, a slave to the machine.  I was rarely present for my family.  While my children played, I checked email.  When my husband wanted my attention, I worked on the computer.  When anyone dared to cross me – they experienced my sharp tongue and vicious backlash.

I did not take a week of vacation for five years.  I worked every weekend.

A few times, my anxiety manifested itself into panic attacks followed by deep depression.  I never told a soul.  My mother, husband and a close friend were the only witnesses to my suffering.

When Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story stated: “The law is a jealous mistress,” he wasn’t kidding.  My mistress was very jealous and she demanded my complete attention – even at the expense of my family, my faith and my health.

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However, God has a way of humbling you and he certainly humbled me.  The one thing that had kept me going through the years was my faith.  I prayed a lot.  I asked for God’s help.  His resounding response to my prayer was “quit.”  Me, being a lawyer, chose to argue with God instead of accepting his loving judgment.

I mean seriously.  I couldn’t quit being a lawyer.  I used to rationalize staying in my horrible career because of my success, ability and the money.  Also, leaving terrified me.  What would I do?  What would people say?

During this chapter of my life, I let fear govern me.  I let fear make my decisions.  For years, I chose to be afraid – instead of being brave.  I allowed pride to lead my life – not my heart.

But then, on the day I stood in my office as it rained and I looked at my diplomas, I did something very unusual.  I left the office and went for a walk.  I left my phone on my desk and took nothing with me.

At first, I was just going to walk around the block to get some fresh air and clear my head.  Then the sun came out.  I kept walking.  I walked for miles along a path that ran adjacent to a river.  I kept walking until I crossed into a park in the next town over.  I walked until the path looped in front of a magnificent tree.  It was here – I stopped.

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The Tree!  Visit it for yourself at Mount St.Mary’s Park in St. Charles, Illinois.

I looked up at the tree and was overcome by its beauty.  It was full and radiant.  Its leaves were turning a rich sunset orange as the fall weather creeped in.  I must have walked past this tree dozens of times before but I had never noticed it.

A peace came over me – and then a feeling of pure happiness.  I knew in my heart that I was going to retire from the practice of law.  Even better, I knew that it was going to be okay.  I was done arguing with God.  I was done arguing with myself.  I was done – with fear.

So, that night, after I put our children to bed, I told my husband that I wanted to stop practicing law.  I expected him to be furious – or at the very least – disappointed.  Relief flooded me as he took me into his arms and told me how proud he was of me.  He kissed the top of my head and said softly, “You should have done this years ago.  I should have helped you to do it.”

Knowing that I had Jeff’s support – and unconditional love – made transitioning out of the practice of law much easier than I had expected.  Actually, I was surprised at how simple it was to transfer my clients to different firms and wind up by business.  Within a few months, the phone calls stopped and the emails ebbed.

I started sleeping soundly through the night and became present for my children.  The twitching stopped and the only “sleep aid” I needed was milk, cookies and a good book.  Jeff and I laughed a lot.  We cooked together and I drank wine with my husband for pleasure – not to self-medicate.  I started to write.

Lawyers are taught to follow the “letter of the law.”  This means, we are to follow the literal translation of the rule of law with little interpretation.  William Shakespeare offered that we should examine the spirit behind a law – not just the black and white words that appear on the page.  In Shakespeare’s view, we are to examine the heart and purpose of a word – and not its strict application.  These days, I prefer the bard’s interpretation.

It took me almost a year before I returned to work – this time at a children’s charity.  Money was tight during this time – but contentment levels were high.  Jeff and I continued to make decisions based upon what was healthy for our family instead of what we “should” be doing.

Looking back, I wish I had taken that walk years ago.  But even now, I do not regret my legal career.  Being a lawyer shaped me into the woman I am today.  I will always carry a piece of that lawyer with me.  However, I now walk without any fear of the future and what it holds.

Happiness is honoring yourself.  When we pretend and put on a mask, we rot and bitterness sets in.  Only by exposing ourselves and allowing our true hearts to show – can we find true happiness and (hopefully) leave our mark on the world.

Have Questions about my Faith Story? Let’s Connect!

Walking in faith is easier said than done.  It took me years before I let God take the lead.  Exploring a relationship with Jesus yourself?  Please connect with me using the form below.  I’d love to hear your faith story.

Looking through a Different Lens.

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The Library at Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Law school does not teach you how to be a lawyer.  It teaches you how to think like one.

At the beginning of my legal education – I was free-spirited.  I loved the world with an open heart.  My head was often in the clouds.  I played guitar, made collages out of colored paper and baked cookies.  Nothing made me happier than a good book and a vanilla latte from the local coffee shop.

Mind you, I was (am) a hard worker.  I put myself through college and law school.  However, prior to becoming a member of the bar – I saw the world through a care-free lens.

Law school changed that.

My legal education indoctrinated me to see the world differently – harder, sharper and less forgiving.  There is no “grace” in the law.  There is right, wrong, judgment, verdict or settlement.

I struggled in law school.  Becoming a law student was a bit like pushing a square peg into a round hole.  I just didn’t fit.  My cookies didn’t fit – and guitar playing in the shiny building in downtown Chicago was not allowed.

So, I stopped baking cookies and I stopped playing guitar.

What saved me in law school – was my competitive spirit.  I love to win. Once I started to see law school as a game – I did well.  I earned the high score in several classes and was on the Dean’s List.  However, in a short three years, my view on life forever changed.

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The Legal “Matrix”

Attorneys see the world through a different lens.  Following law school, the curtain (that I didn’t know existed before) was lifted and I could see a web of regulations weaved around everyone. Kind of like Keanu Reeves choosing the red pill in “The Matrix.”  I carried with me a painful realization that everything had a legal ramification and purpose.

I’ll give you an example.

One Saturday night, I was at a restaurant with my husband and another couple, when a sweet, older woman started to exit with her family.  It was winter.  My friend turned to me and commented on how precious this lady was and how it warmed her heart to see a nice woman like that out with her loved ones.

You know what I had been thinking?  “If she slips and falls on that ice outside the door – that will be an easy six figure settlement against this restaurant.”

So horrible.

It is no surprise that lawyers are crippled with mental illness.  Can you imagine what it is like to see the world like that on a daily basis?  It sucks.

I grew tired of seeing the world this way.

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Me at the “peak” of my legal career.  Don’t I look happy?  Not to mention emaciated. I weighed about 15 pounds less than I do now.

As my legal career advanced, I found myself becoming more dependent on God’s Word.  I needed its comfort daily.  I also found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by it.  While there was solace within the scripture – there were also so many darn rules.

During this chapter of my life, I used a faith model I now refer to as “Buffet Style Christianity.”  I selected portions of the Gospel I wanted to incorporate into my life and discarded others.  While I like to think that God was happy with me in that I was reading his Word – I’m sure I drove him crazy with my constant arguments justifying why certain portions of the Bible didn’t apply to me.

My God – is a patient God.

I had a girlfriend who dated a man who insisted upon an “open” relationship.  She wanted marriage.  He desired to be in a relationship with her – but also wanted to flit from person to person as the spirit “moved” him.  I am surprised she tolerated this arrangement for as long as she did.

In many ways, I treated God just like the cad who dated my friend.  I expected God to be “all in” – but I wanted to hold back and not commit myself fully to Him.

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“For we walk by faith – not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

 

As is His way, my Father brought me to the edge of a cliff to force me to decide:  Would I follow His Word?  Would I see the world through His lens?  Or would I choose my own jaded one?

Instead of jumping off that cliff – I made a conscious decision to follow His Word and trust – even if I didn’t understand everything my Father was asking of me.

After I made the decision to walk in faith – I started to see the world differently (again).  Unlike the harsh lens of my legal education – I started to see the world through a lens of grace, compassion and understanding.

I chose to follow God’s Word as his devoted servant.  This hasn’t stopped me from questioning and pushing back on God’s law for my life – but ultimately I agree to try things “His” way and trust He has my best interest at heart.  Which of course, He does.

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My family after the birth of our third child.

Yet again, I found my lens of the world changing.  However, this time, my lens was being shaped by faith.

I started to forgive without being asked to do so.  I practiced giving grace – and receiving it as well.  I set anger aside and did not allow its wickedness to take root in my heart.  I worked to win – but accepted defeat with dignity.  In my failures, I tried to understand my accountable part before placing blame on others.  I started using the mantra “Let them see You – in me.”

I do not regret my legal education.  As an attorney, I no longer live in the clouds and understand that people have real problems that need to be solved.  Lawyers are powerful people who give a voice to the weak and can deliver earthly justice.  As a child’s advocate, I like to think that I am using my law degree for good.

However, fully committing myself to God’s Word is what gave me the power to see – to truly see.  There is a reason why in the hymn “Amazing Grace” – the author penned: “I once was lost – but now – am found.  Was blind, but now I see.”

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Me now!  Blonde, happy and an active cookie eater!

Yet again I have been transformed and see the world through a new lens – a Christian lens.  Through His lens – I honor myself, honor others and set aside those worldly webs that entangle so many.

We are a combination of our human experiences.  For me?  I identify as a Christian, mom, wife, friend, lawyer, writer and creative spirit.  I see the world for what it is – but also for what it can be.

With homemade cookies and a vanilla latte of course.

 

Got Questions about my Faith Story?  Let’s Connect!

“My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.” Psalm 19:14.

 

 

 

 

Thirsty for More.

As a lawyer, it was interesting how I approached my thirst to learn more about God after the night He comforted me.  I was quite analytical.

“First things first, get a Bible,” I thought.

I mean, I wasn’t a moron.  I knew the Bible was God’s “law.”  As a recent law school graduate, this seemed like the most practical place to start.

Asleep-in-bookstoreIn the name of “legal research,” I went to a bookstore.  I skimmed the “religion” section and moved past the tarot card and astrology books.  I gazed uncomfortably at the lady standing in the self-help section one row over.  I wasn’t sure what would be worse for me – if someone I knew spotted me in “self-help” or by the Bibles.  Either way, I’d be pegged as a crazy person.

Once I found the Bibles, I was overwhelmed.  There are a million different kinds of Bibles – King James Version, New King James Version, New Living Translation, New Life Version – who knew there were so many varieties of the same book?  I certainly wasn’t going to hunt someone down at Barnes & Noble and ask “Which Bible is right for me?”

So, I used a sophisticated technique to select my Bible (the Bible I still use today).  I imagespicked one that was pink.  Done.

I can now say without fear of being spotted by someone I know – because it is hard to be conspicuous on the internet – that I am the proud owner of a One Year Bible for Women – New Living Translation, 2nd Edition as published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. in Carol Stream, Illinois.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not that surprising) – people have strong opinions about Bibles – and will openly tell you to “use this one” or “that one is better.”  I say pick the Bible that works best for you and enjoy.

I paid for the Bible with the money I’d typically use to buy wine and stashed it in my backpack.  You’d think I was toting around illicit content and not the Word of God.  Twelve years later – I look back at this chapter of my life and laugh.  I was so ridiculous.

Right after work, I went home, cracked the cover of that Bible and started reading.  I immediately liked “my” Bible because it was a “one a day.”  This means the book is divided into easily digestible segments of Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs.

Turns out – the “Bible” – is a real page turner.  I’m not kidding!  I’d always been an avid reader – pouring through volumes of books in a month – and I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the Bible was (and is) to read.

UnknownFor anyone who is a fan of “Lord of the Rings” or “Game of Thrones” – I can tell you right now that J.R.R. Tolkien and George Martin got nothing on God’s Word.

The Bible is wonderful – it uses incredible imagery and the content is rich.  Every time you read it – you take away something new.  Your relationship to the “characters” inside deepens.  And before you know it – something starts to change in you too.  The book becomes a part of you – and you become a part of it.

To say that I became “obsessed” with the Bible is an understatement.  I never felt like I was just reading a book – I felt like I was having a conversation with someone very wise.

As a young adult – I made so many mistakes.  I carried the burdens of regret, fear, sadness, anxiety and shame with me.  I felt heavy.  In comparison, God’s Word was a comforting – albeit stern – voice answering questions and addressing concerns.  I received real counsel.  More than once, I laughed out loud when I read something in the Bible because it was so dead on.  It was like God spoke directly to me.

After reading my Bible, I’d think – “Wow, I’ve got a lot of work to do.”  But I never felt badimages-1 about myself.  Hope took root in my heart.  God’s Word watered the seed.

As I read more, my relationship with God deepened and my desire to know him more intimately grew.  I realized that I didn’t just want God’s Word to be on my nightstand.  I wanted it to be present with me everywhere I went.  I wanted to be a part of God’s family (badly) and I wanted him to be a part of mine.

During this chapter of my faith journey, my only regret (largely because of my own pigheadedness) – was that I did not seek out a Christian community to support me.  I am prideful and this world has conditioned me to think that “I” know best and that “I” am always right.  In this respect? “I” am a moron.

What I eventually discovered, is that there is “one” who knows way more than me – and that is Jesus.  It took the right church to help me “let go”, accept Christ’s love for me and trust that I deserve it.

But it was the Bible that got me started.  Buying that book remains the best decision I ever made in my life.  It is my comfort; my cup of laughter; my joy; and my tough love whenever I need it.  I don’t need a network or WiFi to be connected.  All I have to do is open the pages of my Father’s book – drink – and be satisfied.

Got Questions about my Faith Journey?  Let’s Connect!

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”   John 7:38-39.

 

 

 

Finding Faith.

In 2005, I was a mess.

I failed my bar exam (By one point! Are you kidding me?  What kind of sick twisted crap is that?), was fired from my lawyer job, my boyfriend left me for a Chinese lesbian (True), and I was forced to give up my apartment and move back in with my mom.

No job.  No man.  No home of my own.

Shamed – I retreated from the legal field and got a job as a cocktail waitress in a bar a couple of towns away.  I didn’t want to see anyone I knew.  I was humiliated.

I was the worst kind of waitress – bitchy, sarcastic, mean.  I stood embittered by my fall from grace and horrendous circumstances which (looking back on it) were predominantly the creation of my own poor life choices.

It would be months before I could re-take the bar.  Night after night – I lay in the futon in the spare bedroom at my mom’s house and watched Sex & the City re-runs until I fell asleep.  The physical pain I felt in my chest during this time was excruciating. I drank to make it go away.  I was a horrible person to be around.  I don’t know how my family dealt with me.

To rub salt in open wounds – my car broke down and I could not afford to fix it.  No longer able to commute to the bar, I took up a job at a local shopping mall.  I rode my bike to work.  In the dead of winter.  In Chicago.

It was during this time that I found God.  Or rather, that God found me.

I was not raised in a Christian house.  I was raised in a good house – with good people in it – but I was not raised in a house that read the Bible or attended church (save for Christmas and Easter – the product of Catholic guilt).  God was cool.  There was no problem with God.  But the whole God-factor was not a part of our day to day lives – unless we were using his name to swear over some sudden physical manifestation of pain.

But then.  There was this night – where God came to me – and I knew with complete certainty – that he was real.

I was lying on the futon after a particularly pathetic day of working at the mall.  I had just gotten off the phone with the collection people who were screaming at me because I could not afford the mortgage payment on the small mansion that was my student loan debt.  My white DKNY coat was destroyed from riding my bike through the black slush.  I had just tried to cut my own hair and failed miserably.

I could not handle the pain.  My misery was tremendous.  Not knowing what else to do – I cried.  And I prayed.  For the first time, I really prayed.  I hit my knees and begged for anything.  Anything that would make this agony go away.  Anything that would give me strength to carry on.  Anything at all.

Then “it” happened.  I felt what I described as a warm hand touch my face.  A peace came over me and I knew that I was not alone.  I knew that it would be okay.  Someone was there with me – someone strong and powerful who loved me and was not going to let me fall – and I knew without a doubt – that someone – was God.

And for you skeptics out there – no.  I was not drunk.  I couldn’t afford to buy booze that week.  I bought bar exam books instead.

What I do know – is that I was able to fall asleep.  For the first time in months, I slept a deep dreamless sleep without nightmares or midnight panic attacks.  I woke the following morning refreshed and ready to conquer the day.  I was strong.  I knew, deep down, that everything was going to be okay.

I also felt crazy.  Seriously?  God?  Where the hell (or rather heaven) did that come from?  My kind of people didn’t buy into that God stuff.  God was someone you visited from time to time at the Catholic church.  Not someone who hung out with you on your crappy futon.

But here is where I was wrong again.  That is exactly who God is.  He seeks us out – no matter where we are or who we are or what we’ve done.  He even seeks out neurotic blonde girls who watch bad tv on cheap futons from IKEA.

This was the beginning of my relationship with God.  I say “relationship” because having a relationship with God and recognizing his existence are two separate and distinct things.  I knew “who” God was from a logical place – but this was the first time I felt his love and presence in my life.

My story is not unique.  Many people are raised in a home where a relationship with God is introduced and nurtured from infancy.  In these homes, God is no different than a beloved family member – albeit much more powerful and significant. However, there are many people, like me, who must experience loss and hardship to find Him.  It is only when we are stripped bare – and have nothing else left – that we are forced to cling to our Father who created us.

History, literature and even the Bible itself are overflowing with testimony of people who found the Lord in their darkest moment: Paul the Apostle and Elizabeth Gilbert come to mind.  There exists a real palpable reason for this testimony.

Now, after this “night” – I did not run to the nearest river and beg to be baptized.  I actually would not come to know Jesus until sometime later.

Truth? I was put off by what had happened to me.  I didn’t tell anyone about this experience for years because I was embarrassed.  I mean, how would people look at me if I said I felt a “warm hand” touch my face in the middle of the night and felt comforted enough to fall asleep?  They’d probably think I was drunk, high – or nuts!

But this experience made me curious.  Curious enough that I used the cash I’d typically spend on vodka to purchase a Bible instead (the Bible I still use today).  That’s when things started to get good.  I read that Bible from cover to cover.  It was (and still is) the best most common sense practical advice book ever.  As I dug deeper, that’s when I truly discovered who God was; what his Son did for me; that I actually deserved his love; and that together, there is nothing we could not conquer.

2005 was just the beginning of my faith story.  After accepting Jesus into my heart – I was no longer embarrassed to tell my “I failed the bar exam, got fired and dumped by my boyfriend and then felt this warm hand which made me curious enough to buy a Bible which lead me to Jesus” story.  I am proud to tell it.

My greatest failure got me to God.  Which was probably his plan along.